Tyler Lovejoy ’16 is interning this summer at a small startup restaurant in Pittsburgh with a unique approach to workforce hiring: a completely free job training program that “will introduce participants to the urban agriculture, world class culinary/restaurant experience and skills necessary to excel in these fields.”
As a workforce development advisor to Kevin Sousa, the owner and operator of the Superior Motors restaurant, Lovejoy acted as a consultant working primarily on this innovative training program, including model creation for the admissions program and database systems.
This is far from Lovejoy’s first foray into community development efforts, however. During the summer of 2014 he worked for the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that provides masonry training to formerly incarcerated individuals, achieving an exceptionally high job placement rate relative to the general population. While there, Lovejoy similarly focused on the implementing a new database and outcome reporting system, but was also able to engage in a range of tasks, including helping participants construct resumes. “Many of these students had just served long prison sentences,” he said, “and it was really rewarding to help them make a positive change.”
The skills and experiences gained during work at the Trade Institute carried over into Lovejoy’s time at Superior Motors. “In every instance I was able to draw upon my experiences at the Trade Institute. I learned a lot there from my bosses Steve Shelton and Rick Brown,” he remarked, “and then adopted various techniques and models to best help Superior Motors.” Though his work this summer has been relatively autonomous compared to the Trade Institute, Lovejoy says that that development has been an enjoyable mix-up and progression for him professionally, and that both experiences have been tremendously rewarding.
The opportunity to work with Sousa arrived by a lucky coincidence, Lovejoy claimed, though he had been interested in the project for some time. “I had been following Kevin Sousa and the Superior Motors Restaurant since its prolific Kickstarter campaign in January 2014,” he said. “It was really interesting to me because I grew up working in restaurants and now had experience and a growing career interest in community development.” During his time at the Trade Institute Lovejoy was connected with Dee Briggs, a local artist who had recently initiated her own community project called The House of Gold in Pittsburgh. Through Briggs, he was introduced to Kevin Sousa and, following a discussion of Lovejoy’s experience at the Trade Institute, was invited to join Superior Motors.
“Overall I have learned a lot about workforce development and the types of opportunities available there,” said Lovejoy. “I was able to learn a lot about the structure of nonprofits as well as social entrepreneurship.” After he graduates next year he is interested in continuing a similar line of work, but is considering branching out into a wide range of community development opportunities.
“(Community development) is really rewarding work that makes a great impact,” Lovejoy opined. “The summer after my freshman year I worked for a construction company and one of my coworkers was actually a Trade Institute of Pittsburgh graduate,” he said. “I saw firsthand the impact the program had on his life and then continued seeing this type of impact (during my work) the next summer.”